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Somalis not worried about terror recruiting in Sioux Falls

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Nearly 2,000 Somalis live in Sioux Falls, yet members of the city's large immigrant community say they aren't nearly as concerned about potential recruiting for the so-called Islamic State group as those in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

That may be because the smaller numbers make it harder for those immigrants to be isolated, according to one expert. Much of the Somali population in Minneapolis never fully assimilates, partly because Somalis tend to congregate in closed communities, Justin Heinz, who co-authored a recent report exploring the ongoing terrorist recruitment and radicalization in the Twin Cities' Somali community, told the Argus Leader.

A lack of assimilation probably is less likely in Sioux Falls because there aren't any charter schools solely for Somali students, isolated Somali neighborhoods or replica malls, Heinz said.

Many of the Somali children in Sioux Falls are younger than those in the Twin Cities, according to Said Yusuf, a local businessman who's originally from Somalia.

"We're a small community. Everyone knows each other. That is the difference here," Yusuf's wife, Sofia Mohamed, said.

At least 27 Somali-Americans left the Twin Cities between 2006 and 2011 to return to Somalia and join local militant group al-Shabaab. Many of those people were attracted to the cause, which initially was perceived as a political movement, by the prospect of rebuilding their homeland, Heinz said.

"They were Muslim. They were interested in pushing back against Kenya and Ethiopia's influence in their country. So there was this nationalistic pull," he said.

At least a dozen Somali-Americans have left Minnesota for Syria, where al-Shabaab has shifted its focus after developing a relationship with ISIL, in the past 17 months, according to law enforcement officials.

"Once they stopped going to Somalia, parents and friends (in the Twin Cities) couldn't understand the draw," Hienz said. "Why go to Syria, where they have no ethnic or cultural ties? Why was there this shift in destination?"

Although there isn't much concern over terrorist recruiting in Sioux Falls, some of the city's native Somalians, like Hirsi Mohamed of the African Community Center, want to establish educational programs that will ensure greater integration into the community, making it less likely that ISIL will ever take hold in the area.

"We're trying to make sure this community will be safe," Mohamed said.


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